Have you ever had an author that you knew, with unfailing certainty, you would absolutely love anything they wrote? You wait for their books with a kind of feverish zeal, and you give it a five-star review as soon as you put it on your to-read list because there is no way that book could be anything but fabulous. When it comes to picturebooks, Mo Willems is that guy for me (Don’t worry Chris Van Allsburg, you’re still my favorite. You just don’t make me laugh all the time.) Anytime I see there is a new Mo Willems book, I know I will love it. I have read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus to my fourth-graders every single year. I love it, they love it, and there is no way I would ever say it is just a “kid’s book.” I can’t put the word “love” into this paragraph enough times. So, imagine my delight when I am flipping through my Scholastic catalog, trying to figure out what to buy with the rest of my paycheck that wasn’t spent on glue sticks, and I see THERE IS A MO WILLEMS BOOK I HAVEN’T READ! I immediately bought That is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems (published 2013), and soon discovered it is misleading, because this book is a very, very good idea.
Warning: spoiler alert in the summary!
I’ll let you know when the spoiler part comes up! The story revolves around a fox and a goose. In the first two pages, we see a goose and a fox, a red line connecting their eyes as they stare at each other. There is utter delight on both their faces, and the reader knows without a doubt that this fox is going to do something to this poor motherly goose. There is an exchange, and these two decide to go off to have dinner. With each page that passes, as they go farther and farther into the “deep, dark woods” and eventually back to a house, we feel a complete sense of dread for momma goose. Why doesn’t she know that she is going to be eaten? Why isn’t she thinking of the poor family that she must have somewhere that will never know that she has been killed, cubed, and cooked into stew? After every few pages, when the fox and the goose go on their adventures, we are given a page with an increasing number of chicks who tell us “That is really not a good idea” with an increasing number of “reallys” to let us know the severity of the situation. ***START SPOILER!*** It is the goose who in the end gets the last laugh, as she ends up pushing the fox into the pot of soup. The little chicks who we think have been warning the goose the whole time were actually warning the fox. Moreover, those little chicks were actually the goose’s babies. Oh, the irony, the hilarity, the complete and utter lack of feeling for the poor fox. Fantastic! ***END SPOILER!***
I love it when a book surprises me. I read a lot and so I am very familiar with story plots, and most of the time I can pretty much guess what will happen in the end. If you can surprise me, I will almost certainly love your book (Unless that book is Allegiant: I’m still angry, but moving on.) I did not see the ending for That is Not a Good Idea, and I think that is fabulous. Imagine your children’s delight while reading the whole book they are predicting and anticipating for one thing to happen, only to find out that they were completely wrong. It is a fabulous feeling, being absolutely surprised, like coming home to a surprise birthday. This is Not a Good Idea is a surprise birthday part in a book.
The illustrations are classical Mo Willems. They are simple, they are helpful, and they make animal murder not so scary! I love the opening picture with the fox and goose looking at each other. Once you have read the book, reread it again and take another look at the illustrations. It changes everything! What is really interesting about the illustrations and text is that they make you read the story like a silent film. Remember how in silent films there would be a scene, followed by a black screen that had text? That is how this book is set up. We have the animals interacting without any words on their illustrations, followed by black pages with white words. I’m fairly certain the font is even the font that was used in old silent films. I don’t know how it adds to this particular storyline, but I do think it is a very cool concept.
|Did I mention that Mo Willems and I are friends?|
In my head?
I’m always amazed at what Mo Willems is able to do in his picturebooks. They look so simple, but they are really just great books for everyone. As soon as I finished reading this book tonight, I immediately read it to my mom. She is 53 years old and laughed right along with me! If you are ever on the lookout for a funny author that children adore, pick up Mo Willems. This is Not a Good Idea is a book of his that is sure to be a crowd pleaser for everyone, at any age.
I love sharing this “movie poster” with people who are fans of Mo Willems. I laughed out loud for a solid minute after seeing this!